South Carolina Authorises Execution By Firing Squad To Address Lethal Injection Shortage

by : Cameron Frew on : 03 Mar 2021 17:30
PA Images/South Carolina Department of Corrections/Facebook

South Carolina has authorised firing squad executions in order to address a shortage of lethal injection drugs. 

The state joins Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi in bringing firing squads into its list of execution methods, alongside lethal injection and the electric chair, as per the Death Penalty Information Centre.


South Carolina’s Senate approved the bill on a 32-11 vote, attracting bipartisan support from several Democrats next to their Republican colleagues. This will see a number of executions proceed that have been delayed for nearly 10 years.

South Carolina prisonPA Images

Since 2013, the state hasn’t had the necessary drugs – pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride – to carry out lethal injections. While there have been some supplies, they’ve since expired, and authorities haven’t been able to purchase any more.

The reason this has impacted the due dates of executions is because prisoners on death row are allowed to choose the method with which they’ll be killed. Over the past years, inmates have often selected lethal injection, knowing their execution will be delayed due to the lack of drugs.


However, the new Senate bill eliminates this option. Now, if a prisoner opts for lethal injection and it isn’t available, they have to choose between the electric chair or death by firing squad.

Electric chairPA Images

South Carolina is one of only nine states across the US to still use the electric chair, alongside Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.

It’s reportedly still the same chair first used in 1912, after it was introduced as a supposedly ‘more humane’ method than hanging – however, both Georgia and Nebraska’s Supreme Courts have ruled it to be in violation of their state constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.


The vote comes after Republican Governor Henry McMaster requested to restart executions, with a number of inmates stuck on death row having lost their appeals without an authorised method of execution in law.

Dick Harpootlian PA Images

While the House is said to be considering a version of the bill without the firing squad, it still attracted support from both parties. As per Sky News, Democrat Senator Dick Harpootlian said, ‘The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while. If it is going to remain, it ought to be humane.’

An execution hasn’t been carried out in South Carolina since May 2011. Since then, the total number of inmates on death row has dropped from 60 to 37, either as a result of successful appeals, natural deaths or being resentenced to life in prison without parole and no death penalty.


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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Now, South Carolina, US


Sky News and 1 other
  1. Sky News

    South Carolina adds firing squad to execution methods to address lethal injection shortage

  2. Death Penalty Information Centre

    Methods of Execution